Saturday, August 01, 2009


The recent arrest of Professor Gates has let loose a torrent of accusations that blacks all over the country are victimized daily by racial profiling. Since there will be no political correctness in my blogs, let me start out here by saying that racial profiling by the police is not altogether bad.

Last night I was watching hours of reruns of the HBO comedy series, "Curb Your Enthusiasm." In one episode Larry Davis left his office building and gave his car keys to a well-dressed black man standing by the valet parking sign. The man gave the keys back and berated Davis for assuming that just because he was a well-dressed black man, he was a parking valet. To make matters worse, black actress and comedienne Wanda Sykes, who has a recurring role in the series, observed the encounter and got all over Davis for stereotyping a black man. Near the end of that episode, Davis pulled into the parking lot and walked away without locking his car. After he’s gone quite a ways, a black man who was not dressed up passed by. Davis then hit the remote to lock the car. When the man heard the car horn beep, he accused Davis of thinking that because he was black, he was going to break into the car. And Sykes, who also observed the latest encounter, came over and told Davis: Oh, I see Larry. When a black man is well-dressed you think he’s a valet, but when he’s not, you think he’s a criminal.

OK, so that was a comedic take on stereotyping and racial profiling. Seriously though, I can certainly sympathize with honest and decent black men who become the unfortunate victims of racial profiling, be it by the police or by private citizens. But does that mean the police should never use racial profiling? Not by a long shot!

Back when I was a cop, I was with a California law enforcement agency that was recognized nationally as being very innovative and progressive. Racial discrimination by its officers in any form was not tolerated. But racial profiling was used all the time as an effective crime fighting tool. If a person driving at night looked out of place in a neighborhood, he was stopped and his ID was checked. Did we stop all black drivers in a white neighborhood? No! But if a black driver looked suspicious in a white neighborhood he was stopped and vise versa. The same for Latinos.

Did we prevent a lot of burglaries that way? You bet we did! Did we stop some innocent drivers? Of course we did. Were they pissed off? Yes they were, and rightfully so! But that is the price some had to pay for the protection of society – an embarrassing inconvenience while their ID was being checked out.

Are those same police tactics still being used today? Sure they are. They are probably used on as many whites today as on blacks. Whites driving through black neighborhoods known for crack cocaine sales are going to be stopped because they’re most likely there to buy dope. Are some of those whites innocent? Yes. But again, that’s the price some have to pay as we try to prevent the use and sales of illegal drugs. And don’t buy that crap by Homeland Security that they are not resorting to racial profiling in the fight against terrorism.

So when people scream bloody murder about racial profiling, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. I’m sure it’s quite unpleasant to run afoul of racial profiling, but despite the embarrassment and inconvenient delays to those stopped who are innocent of any wrongdoing, the judicious use of racial profiling by the police continues to be an effective crime fighting tool.

As for Professor Gates, there was NO racial profiling in his case. The police did not question him because he was black, but because they responded to a burglary in progress call. And in response to President Obama’s hope that the professor’s arrest would be a "teachable moment," Rudy Giuliani said, "He’s actually right. It is teachable. Here’s the lesson: SHUT UP!"


Centurion said...

You been on a plane lately?

Well dressed middle class looking little old ladies getting shook down by airport screeners while shabbily dressed third world types with accents get a pass. The screeners are so proud of themselves. I's all so politically correct and wonderfully devoid of any profiling.

Real effective too.....

BarkGrowlBite said...

You've got that right Centurion.

The screeners are employed by private security busineesses which have been ordered by the Homeland Security Department to follow a politically correct policy which prohibits the use of racial profiling.

But federal law enforcement officers don't seem to be bound by those rules. You can be sure they're enploying racial profiling in the fight against terrorism.